A comparative study between different OpenStreetMap contributor groups – Outline 2016

by Pascal Neis - Published: November 13th, 2016

Over the past few years I have written several blog posts about the (non-) activity of newly registered OpenStreetMap (OSM) members (2015, 2014, 2013). Similarly to the previous posts, the following image shows the gap between the number of registered and the number of active OSM members. Although the project still shows millions of new registrations, “only” several hundred thousand of these registrants actually edited at least one object. Simon showed similar results in his yearly changeset studies.


The following image shows, that the project still has some loyal contributors. More specifically, it shows the increase in monthly active members over the past few years and their consistent data contributions based on the first and latest changeset:


However, this time I would like to combine the current study with some additional research. I tried to identify three different OSM contributor groups, based on the hashtag in a contributor’s comment or the utilized editor, for the following analysis:

  1. Contributors of the MissingMaps-Project: A contributors of the project usually use #missingmaps in their changeset.
  2. Contributors that utilized the Maps.Me app: The ‘created_by’-tag contains ‘MAPS.ME’.
  3. All other ‘regular’ contributors of the OSM project, who don’t have any #missingmaps in their changesets and neither used the maps.me editor.

In the past 12 months, almost 1.53 million members registered to the OSM project. So far, only 12% (181k) ever created at least one map edit: Almost 12,000 members created at least one changeset with the #missingmaps hashtag. Over 70,000 used the maps.me editor and 99,000 mapped without #missingmaps and the maps.me editor. The following diagram shows the number of new OSM contributors per month for the three aforementioned groups.


The release of the maps.me app (more specifically the OSM editor functionality) clearly has an impact on the monthly number of new mappers. Time for a more detailed analysis about the contributions and mapping times: The majority of the members of the groups don’t show more than two mapping days (What is a mapping day, you ask? Well, my definition would be: A mapping day is day, where a contributor created at least one changeset). Only around 6% of the newly active members are contributing for more than 7 days.


Some members of the #missingmaps group also contributed some changesets without the hashtag. But many of those members (70%) only contributed #missingmaps changesets. Furthermore, 95% of this adjusted group doesn’t map for more than two days. Anyway, despite identifying three different contributor groups, the results are looking somewhat similar. Let’s have a look at the number of map changes. The relative comparison shows that the smaller #missingmaps group produces a large number of edits. The maps.me group only generates small numbers of map changes to the project’s database.


Lastly, I conducted an analysis for three selected tag-keys: building, highway and name. The comparison shows that the #missingmaps group generates a larger number of building and highway features. In contrast “regular” OSM’ers and maps.me users contributed more primary keys such as the name- or amenity-tag.


I think the diagrams in this blog post are quite interesting because they show that the #missingmaps mapathons can activate members that contribute many map objects. But they also indicate that the majority of these elements are traced from satellite imagery without primary attributes. In contrast the maps.me editor functionality proofed to be successful with its in-app integration and its easy usability, which resulted in a huge number of new contributors. In summary, I think it would be good to motivate contributors not only to participate in humanitarian mapathons but also to map their neighborhood in an attempt to stick to the project. Also, I guess it would be great if the maps.me editor would work on the next steps in providing easy mapping functionality for its users (of course with some sort of validation to reduce questionable edits).

Thanks to maɪˈæmɪ Dennis.